SYDNEY – Walking less than two miles a couple of times a week and taking a natural supplement can significantly ease the crippling pain of arthritis, a new study shows.
Walking further or for five days a week did not make patients feel substantially better, the study also shows.
Experts recommend that most people walk for much longer, around 10,000 steps a day, to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
But there has been confusion over how much exercise those with osteoarthritis, the ‘wear and tear’ form of the condition, thought to affect around eight million people in Britain, should take.
The supplement, glucosamine sulphate, which is made from the shells of shellfish, has previously been linked to easing the pain of arthritis, although the evidence has not been conclusive.
Volunteers took the supplement for six weeks, by the end of which their pain levels had fallen by 13 per cent.
They were then asked start taking regular exercise on top of the supplement.
By the end of six months patients reported that both their levels of pain and stiffness had halved, the findings, published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy, show.
“But we don’t really know what the appropriate amount of exercise is, and this study is an attempt to answer that.”
She added: “Recent studies into the effectiveness of glucosamine have been very mixed, although anecdotally lots of people with osteoarthritis report some benefit.”
“Exercise is good for overall wellbeing, helps mobility, and actually lifts low spirits by releasing endorphins – the body’s natural ‘painkillers’ – into the bloodstream.”
The University of Queensland team admit that there study was small, with only 36 patients completing the full six months – in part because some were advised to drop out of the trial by their family doctor, concerned that they should not take too much exercise.
They have called for larger studies to validate their findings.
Last year similar research suggested that practising Tai Chi could ease the pain of arthritis.
The NHS performs 65,000 knee replacements a year, many on patients with arthritis of the knee.